FOR RELEASE Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Schwarz to Be Conductor Laureate Beginning with the 2011–2012 Season

Seattle, WA – Gerard Schwarz, Seattle Symphony’s Music Director since 1985, has announced he will step down from that post when his current contract expires at the end of the 2010–2011 season. Maestro Schwarz made the announcement today from Benaroya Hall, the majestic venue he helped build ten years ago this season. Beginning with the 2011–2012 season, Schwarz will assume the lifetime title of Conductor Laureate and return to conduct the Orchestra for several weeks each season.

“The Seattle Symphony is among the finest orchestras in the world today. It has been my privilege to work alongside such a dedicated group of individuals – from the fine musicians, to the Board, to the Symphony administration who have all come together for the sole purpose of creating great art,” said Schwarz in making his announcement. “As we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of our magnificent Benaroya Hall and our extraordinary artistic accomplishments, I believe it is a fitting time to relinquish my Music Director responsibilities of this Orchestra, which has come to mean so much to me over the last 24 years. With my new position, I will be afforded the opportunity to continue a relationship with this fine Orchestra and focus on the music-making I love so dearly.”

During his distinguished tenure, Schwarz is credited with transforming Seattle Symphony to an ensemble of international prominence. Together, Schwarz and Seattle Symphony have collaborated on more than 125 recording projects which have resulted in eleven Grammy nominations. Schwarz and the Symphony have received six ASCAP Awards for Adventuresome Programming, a tribute to his tireless efforts to champion the music of living composers and American composers, in particular. Two Emmy-winning television specials were produced during Schwarz’s tenure: Seattle Symphony from Benaroya Hall: Sibelius, Bruch and Shostakovich and Seattle Symphony from Benaroya Hall: Kernis, Kodaly and Brahms.

In addition to the tremendous growth the Orchestra has had under Schwarz’s tenure, his greatest achievement on behalf of Seattle Symphony was perhaps his vision to create a great concert hall for the citizens of Seattle. Benaroya Hall opened its doors to the public in 1998 as the first facility in Seattle designed exclusively for concert performance. Today the concert hall is an integral part of the health of Seattle’s downtown district – and has revitalized the area, drawing new restaurants and shops to the immediate vicinity of the hall where vacant, run-down buildings had been before. Following Benaroya Hall’s phenomenal success, several other cities followed suit with concert halls of their own, creating an American concert hall “boom.”

Educational outreach under Schwarz has also blossomed. Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center, housed in Benaroya Hall, has daily activities such as musical storytelling, instrument exploration, classes, student recitals, lectures, workshops and interactive exhibits and brings music to 20,000 people a year. Additional educational programs serve 90,000 people of all ages, including 25,000 students from 190 schools in 23 school districts. Today, the Symphony is recognized for its innovative programming of contemporary works and devotion to the classics. From September through July, the Symphony is heard live by more than 315,000 people ¬– an impressive number given the city of Seattle has a population of 578,700, not including the metropolitan areas.

“Schwarz’s history, success and contribution to the life of symphonic music throughout the world, means we must work very hard together to find an individual with the same commitment who will continue to lead Seattle Symphony in the manner to which it has grown accustomed,” commented Executive Director Thomas Philion as he and Board Chair Susan Hutchison joined Schwarz for the announcement. “Happily, we have three concert seasons to celebrate the many contributions Gerard Schwarz has made and will continue to make to this institution, as we look ahead with great excitement to what the future holds for Seattle Symphony.”

Board Chair Susan Hutchison announced that a search committee will be formed to work on the direction and timing of the search process. “We are grateful to Gerard Schwarz for building the reputation of the Seattle Symphony. The Board is confident that the legacy Maestro Schwarz has created will give us the leverage we need to attract a stellar Music Director. The transition committee is delighted to have three seasons in which to introduce a number of qualified candidates to Seattle.”

Select Achievements from Gerard Schwarz’s Tenure from 1983,
When He Joined Seattle Symphony as Music Advisor, to 2008 Include:

• Gerard Schwarz is currently the longest serving Music Director of any major orchestra
• Audience growth has risen from 5,000 subscribers in 1983 to 35,000 subscribers in 2008
• Fundraising has grown from an endowment of $2 million in 1983 to over $30 million in 2008
• Musicians’ salaries have increased 500% during Maestro Schwarz’s tenure
• The Seattle Symphony budget has increased from $5 million in 1983 to $22 million in 2008
• Classical subscription weeks have increased from 12 in 1983 to 27 in 2008
• Overwhelming strides in education, including five new series and the successful Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center
• Over 125 acclaimed recordings, including 11 Grammy nominations
• 2008–2009 releases are Shostakovich Eighth Symphony, a children’s disc, a holiday disc and works by Foote, Taylor, Sheng, Schuman and Jones
• Former member of the National Council on the Arts
• Two consecutive Emmy Awards for televised performances from Benaroya Hall
• Six ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, ASCAP’S John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music and ASCAP’s 2002 Concert Music Award
• Musical America’s 1994 Conductor of the Year
• Received Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels Mayor’s Arts Award for contribution to the arts
• NARAS Pacific Northwest “IMPACT” lifetime achievement award
• Regular festivals involving world premieres, educational outreach & community service
• Instrumental in the creation of Benaroya Hall from fundraising to acoustics
• Created Composer in Residence, participants have included Albert, Stock, Danielpour, Sheng, Jones
• Created new series to meet a wide variety of audience tastes, including Basically Baroque, Mainly Mozart, Organ and Guitar recitals, Tiny Tots, Musically Speaking, Popular Culture, Visiting Orchestras and a new chamber music series.
• Collaborated with local universities, schools, ensembles, and numerous music and cultural organizations to fully embrace the local arts community.
• Seattle Symphony performed for the opening of Safeco Field and Key Arena. Maestro Schwarz also created a community orchestra, including a special performance for His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with 640 participants.